Saturday, 17 August 2013




Chennai metro rail is a rapid transit system currently under construction with two phases having both underground and elevated lines and stations. The total length of line is 45.1 kms and the project value is Rs. 14000 crores. The first phase is now underway. Nearly 25 companies have been awarded tenders. We found during our study that mostly the underground constructions were undertaken by foreign giant companies such as SUCG, Mosmetrostroy and Transtonnelstroy. Indian construction companies such as L&T have only joint ventures with these companies but none of them involved as an individual unit.Some companies such as the Tata group companies,Voltas and Tata Steel, are handling independent projects in air conditioning and material supply.


Chennai Metropolis has been growing rapidly and the traffic volumes on the roads have also been increasing enormously. Hence the need for a new rail based rapid transport system has been felt and towards this objective the Government of Tamil Nadu has undertaken the Chennai Metro Rail Project. This project aims at providing the people of Chennai with a fast, reliable, convenient, efficient, modern and economical mode of public transport, which is properly integrated with other forms of public and private transport including buses, sub-urban trains and MRTS.

The corridor-1 starts from Washermanpet and ends at the Chennai Airport. Dead end to dead end length of Corridor is 23.085 km, out of which 14.300 km is underground, 8.785 km is elevated. Total 18 stations have been planned along this corridor.

Corridor-2 starts from Chennai Central and ends at St. Thomas Mount. Dead end to Dead end Corridor length is 21.961km. Alignment length is 22.000 from dead end to dead end (Table 1).
Table1: Total length of metro rail line (in km)

Underground (km)
Washermenpet to Airport
23.1 kms.
14.3 (extension 2.3)
Chennai Central to St.Thomas Mount
22.0 kms.
45.1 kms.

Fig1: Route map of Chennai metro rail


Chennai metro rail limited started awarding tenders for the construction of metro rail in Chennai from 2009.So far totally 25 tenders were awarded to both national and international companies. These tenders are given for the construction of elevated and underground stations, electric and signaling works and other project work. The tenders have been given to companies such as:

The New India Assurance Company Limited, Chennai, M/S SGS India Pvt Ltd,  M/S Arthur D Little Limited, M/S. LancoInfratech Limited, M/S Voltas Ltd, M/S Emirates Trading Agency LLC, Dubai and ETA Engineering Private Limited, India Consortium, M/S The Nippon Signal Co Ltd, M/S Siemens Aktiengesellschaft, Germany and Siemens Limited India Consortium, M/S Gammon-OJSC Mosmetrostroy JV, M/S Johnson Lifts Pvt. Limited and SJEC Corporation-JV, M/S. Larsen & Toubro Limited, Alstom Transport, SA and Alstom Projects India Ltd.-JV, M/S Consolidated Construction Consortium, M/S Transtonnelstroy-Afcons JV, M/S Metro Tunnelling Chennai L&T-SUCG JV, M/s Tantia Construction Limited, M/s. Soma Enterprise Limited.

Elevated stations and other construction tenders have been won by Indian companies such as:  Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T), M/s. Soma Enterprise Limited, M/s Consolidated Construction Consortium Limited.
Most of the tenders for underground works have been awarded to international companies from China, Russia and France either as individual companies or as consortia. The companies are: M/S Metro Tunnelling , M/S Transtonnelstroy-Afcons JV, M/s Alstom Transport S.A and Alstom Projects India Ltd Consortium, M/S Gammon-OJSC Mosmetrostroy JV. The underground constructions and tunneling are mainly done by foreign companies such as M/S Emirates Trading Agency, Dubai and ETA Engineering Private Limited, M/S Transtonnelstroy, Mosmetrostroy and SUGC. Signalling, Platform Screen doors and Tele-communications were done by M/S The Nippon Signal Co Ltd, M/S Siemens Aktiengesellschaft, Germany and Siemens Limited India Consortium (Fig 2).
Alstom signed its first metro rolling stock contract in India for supplying 168 cars and 16 additional metro cars to Chennai Metro. Alstom will supply Chennai metro's public operator with 42 train-sets composed of four cars each. Each coach costs CMRL Rs.90 million. The stainless steel trains will feature air-conditioned interiors and electrically operated automatic sliding doors, offering comfort and easy access to passengers. They will be equipped with a regenerative braking system ensuring significant energy savings. The cars will operate on 25 KV AC through an overhead catenary system at speeds of up to 80 km/h. 

Financial support for the construction of Chennai metro rail has been received from JICA (Japan international cooperation agency). The estimated amount for construction is Rs. 14000 crores, the central and state government of India is expected to contribute 41% and the rest will be given by JICA by signing of ODA loan.

Fig: 2 Chennai Metro rail tunnel

Many foreign companies got tender in Chennai metro rail project among them three main tunnel constructing companies are:
v        SUCG (Shanghai Urban Construction (Group) Corporation)
v         Mosmetrostroy
v        Transtonnelstroy

SUCG (Shanghai Urban Construction (Group) Corporation)
SUCG Infrastructure India Pvt. Ltd. is an international company which integrates overseas construction, design and management, investment, and sales of construction equipment. Shanghai Urban Construction (Group) Corporation, established in October 1996 with the approval of Shanghai Municipal Party Committee and the Government, is a comprehensive enterprise particularly supported by the Ministry of Construction and Shanghai Municipal Government. It is authorized by Shanghai State-owned Asset Management Committee to manage the state-owned assets within the Group.
Shanghai Urban Construction (Group) Corporation has the special-class qualification for municipal public works, the first-class general contracting qualifications for highway construction, housing, etc.
Role in construction of Tunnel:

SUGC plays a major part in Metrorail construction overseas; they focus on construction of tunnels. In India it has three projects in joint venture with L&T, two in Delhi metro rail and one in Chennai metro rail.
It has 2 overseas tunneling projects in Singapore and Hongkong and has got “Best contractor” award from Angola local government.
Technique used for tunneling:

The machine used by SUCG in CMRL project is tunnel boring machine. The construction method of underground railway shield-driven running tunnel interconnecting channel is characterized by utilizing steel segments of downward tunnel to make grid front earth-cutting device, connecting said grid front earth-catting device with pipe-jacking equipment to form grid squeeze-type pipe-jacking machine, jacking to upward tunnel from downward tunnel and adopting prefabricated composite steel pipe components to assemble them to form the invented interconnecting channel. This method has got China national patent under the title: Construction method for tunnel contact passage in shield section of underground railway.

Open Joint-Stock Company Moskovsky Metrostroy is a bearer of the traditions of the Russian metro-engineering school, which started to emerge in 1931, when it became necessary to set up an infrastructure for the implementation of governmental resolution to set up metro service in Moscow. It has got much state, national and international prizes since 1939. It plays a major role in road tunnels and interchanges.

Role in CMRL:

In 2010 Mosmetrostroy in consortium with Gammon India Ltd. won 2 of 5 tenders announced by Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL). The total contract value is about $430,000,000. The joint project provides the construction of 2 twin-bored tunnels and 7 metro stations in the city of Chennai, India. The Total length of the plot is 8.7 km (8706 m).

Innovative technique used in construction:

They play a major role in road tunnels and interchanges. The two major techniques used for building metro tunnels and stations are: shielding (underground) and cut-and-cover Shielding here all the works are done underground, without disrupting traffic or affecting the town utilities in place.  To bring people, machines and materials into the tunnel under construction, shafts are sunk, with hoists engineered. These are also used to bring out the excavated soil. Soil excavation and lining are performed using a variety of methods. Drilling-and-blasting method is based on breaking soil with explosive charges placed in pre-drilled boreholes. After that, soil is removed from the working face by rock-loading machines and cast-iron or reinforced concrete lining is put in place by special-purpose erectors.

The cut-and-cover method is used for building subsurface lines. Work is done in a pit or trench, which after lining is covered with soil. In conditions of dense urban development, special structures are used to stabilize pits, such as a diaphragm wall or bored-secant piles with anchor or girder bracing. Metro stations are most often built by the cut-and-cover technique; tracks between them by tunneling (fig 3).
  Fig 3 layout of facilities on metro rail station; source:


Transtonnelstroy is a specialized enterprise and is working on the design and construction of tunnels, subways, and other specialty and underground structures for various purposes. It is a giant Russian company for underground construction.It is mainly for construction of tunnels and has completed many projects in Moscow. They have Modern tunneling and special mining equipment which allows carrying out any construction and operation of underground facilities for special purposes in different geological conditions.

Project in CMRL:

A joint venture of Transtonnelstroy and Afcons Infrastructure has been awarded contracts worth Rs 2,598 crore for execution of the Chennai Metro Project. The two contracts with a value of Rs 1,567 crore and Rs 1,031 crore, respectively cover respective lengths from Washermenpet to Egmore station and from Shenoy Nagar to Thiurmangalam station. The works include design and construction of underground stations and associated tunnels covering a total length of 8.6 km and nine underground stations.


I am fascinated to note that the Russian and Chinese companies that have been awarded crucial tenders in the CMRL project are Government Companies or Joint Stock companies.However, similar Indian companies seem not have been awarded contracts. IRCON (the Indian Railway Construction Company) that specializes in Railways (New Railway lines, rehabilitation/conversion of existing lines, Station Buildings and facilities, Bridges, Tunnels, Signalling and Tele-communication, Railway Electrification, and Wet Leasing of Locomotives), Highways, EHV sub-station (engineering, procurement and construction) and Metro rail, and also has undertaking multi-million dollar railway contracts in Malaysia and Sri Lanka, has not been awarded any tenders according to the website of the CMRL.

Similarly, the metro rolling stock contract was given to Alston, a France based company, but not to ICF, even though ICF has all the facilities to construct and maintain cars.


This analysis brings home the point that though Indian companies may be competitive in the elevated sections of metro railways, they lack experience, technological skill and expertise in providing services to be competitive in the underground sectors.



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